Final Debate of International Mini-European Assembly Tackles Democracy
Is democracy under threat? Students based in Malta and visiting Erasmus students debated this question and how to build resilience in the EU at the final plenary session of this year’s International Mini-European Assembly at the Maltese Parliament.
The Mini-European Assembly is a simulation of the European Parliament, with close ties to the Parliamentary Sssembly of the Council of Europe. In the MEA, students represent different European countries and discuss topics of European relevance through the political perspective of the member state they represent.
The teams provide resolutions linked to the various reports presented, and are assessed on their presentation, delivery, question-making, discussion, debating, and public speaking skills. A panel of judges decides on the winning team based on a point system devised by the Assembly, with weightings given over the year.
The Malta-based team of students representing the Netherlands emerged as the winner of the months-long debating competition inspired by the European Parliament and the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe. The students from Malta’s higher education establishments, which traditionally field teams in the MEA, were joined in this final debate by Erasmus students, giving this year’s session a more international flavour.
The students got to know the theme only an hour before the final plenary session. This was moderated by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr David Agius, who introduced the debate by noting the value of involving students in international affairs.
“Room for debate is in itself a valuable step in strengthening democracy”, he said, encouraging the students to go beyond the debate and use what they learnt in the MEA in everyday life.
For President Metsola, Europe needs more of such debates.
“Your commitment today must set the tone for the future”, the youngest-ever EP President told participants via video message, reminiscing on the time she herself participated in the assembly simulation, and highlighting the many soft skills it improves.
President Metsola encouraged participants to pursue their ambitious and “always aim high”.
“Democracy doesn’t happen by itself, each citizen needs to participate actively,” emphasised Dr Colin Scicluna, Head of Cabinet for the European Commission’s Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, Dubravka Šuica, while highlighting the theme chosen for the final debate.
He outlined, via a video message, the EC’s work on strengthening democracy, spotlighting digital literacy, and threats to democracy including deaths of journalists and corruption, and insisted that “democracy is not a flexible notion”. EU institutions also need to increase their transparency and accountability in order to strengthen the EU from within, he affirmed.
The Secretary General of the National Student Travel Foundation, Francis Stivala, noted that he was happy to finally be able to welcome students again after the pandemic. “It is vital to encourage youth to discuss political issues,” he said.
The final debate was organised by our office, together with NSTF and the VisMedNet Association. It was televised live on the Maltese Parliament’s TV Channel and livestreamed at parlament.mt.
Certificates of participation were presented by Dr David Agius, the Deputy Speaker of the House, Mr Francis Stivala, NSTF Secretary General, and Dr Mario Sammut, our head.
Prizes were also presented to the members of the winning team in the year-long competition, which spanned over four sessions. These were Leo Ghorishi, Gianni Farrugia, Julian Formosa, and Lucienne Gafa, representing the Netherlands. Individually, Sean Grech, from the team representing Denmark, won for best speaker, and Leo Ghorishi was recognised for the best effort.
The winners will visit the major European institutions in Brussels, including the EP. This was the final debate of the 33rd edition of the Mini-European Assembly, from a series that started in 1989. The previous editions have included discussions on a wide range of topics affecting Europe, from climate change to the rule of law and culture.